Live Review: Josephine Sillars

The Hug and Pint 31/03/16

Having never been to the Hug and Pint’s snug gig den before, I was somewhat unexpectedly hit by the bohemian pillow strewn Greenwich village vibes. This impression was probably helped along by Carly Brown’s witty and personal slam poetry going on as I came into the basement room. Brown’s contemporary comic worries and wonderings were infused with beautifully constructed poetic digressions that would reduce Guy Garvey to a snivelling puddle.

A personal favourite was her careful deconstruction of the inanity of the opening words to ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ which turned into a concise and powerful feminist call for character depth. After a break for drinks came Chrissy Barnacle opening with a stream of laid-back stoner philosophy on love and her attempted transition into adulthood, asking us ‘Who doesn’t like having sex at night time?’ This conversational easiness was a world away from her spooky ethereal singing voice, which strung together finger plucked John Martyn-esque folk melodies in shifting tempos.

Barnacle has a seamless ability to illuminate for the audience the funny and everyday side to the serious heartfelt concerns of her music. ‘Cannibal Rats Part 1’ setting up cruises, divorcees and flesh eating rats, showed off her dynamic voice to its full. With a wonderful guitar build that stopped almost as soon as it started, Barnacle leaves us wanting more of her knowing hallucinogenic charms.

Josephine Sillars, who I oddly enough recognised from an English Language seminar last year, brought an astute mix of filmed interviews from friends on the Scottish music scene, thoughtfully chosen stories and well executed original show tunes charting Sillar’s adolescent years journeying from small town highlands to Glasgow. Her show, much more of a performance than your average gig – with Sillars introducing songs as what can be imagined as accurate versions of her formal self, lead us towards a vision for a more socialist Scottish music scene. Drawing on personal recollections of her Grandmother, the late Margo MacDonald MSP, Sillars sought through her stories and songs a more supportive dialogue between performers and audiences. Like Barnacle, her songs were given power through the stories that accompanied them, which picked apart particular key moments in Sillars’ life.

The variety, fun and wealth of local talent that brought the audience right into the mix was a perfect demonstration of Sillars’ desire for a more socialist music scene, better for both artists and us mere watchers alike.

[Josh Dodds]

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